Bartholomew County government’s Information Technology department is down to one staff member due to recent resignations.
The only remaining member of the IT staff, which once consisted of five employees, has five months experience, county commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said.
That leaves the county vulnerable, Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps said.
“We’re losing good and capable people who are very skilled,” Kleinhenz told the county council during their final budget session Thursday.
Most of the resignations have occurred after county employees were offered much-higher salaries in the private sector.
Two firms — Sharp Management Services and Data Strategies — were asked Thursday to put together proposals to help the county temporarily cover its bases, the commissioner said.
But without a fully equipped in-house IT staff, a computer problem could create a log jam and essentially shut down the clerk’s office, Phelps said.
The county’s judges are also nervous that one glitch could incapacitate their operations, the clerk said.
“When you look at all the recent hackings, one person could load up a virus and the whole county goes down,” Phelps said. “Information technology is critical infrastructure, and this could easily become a public safety issue.”
The county experienced a computer glitch earlier this summer which prevented city and county law enforcement officers from obtaining data on laptop computers in their vehicles.
New director resigns
After his third day on the job, newly appointed IT director Robert Scott Henry submitted his resignation at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Kleinhenz told the council.
While Henry explained he had accepted a new offer for the same position in Johnson County, the Franklin resident also wrote about the turmoil among the local IT staff in his resignation letter, Kleinhenz said.
Two days before Henry quit, computer specialist Zac Holt also announced he was leaving. Weeks earlier, fellow IT employee Katherine “Kat” Williams handed in her resignation.
While both Holt and Williams will technically remain employees until Friday, both will begin using vacation time immediately following the Labor Day weekend, Kleinhenz said.
“This is not over,” Kleinhenz warned the county council during its budget session Thursday. “Be ready for that. We’ll have some struggles.”
The rash of resignations began when 12-year employee and former IT director Jim Hartsook left the county’s employment in August 2015 to accept a position in the private sector.
Many of the subsequent problems have stemmed from a lack of leadership since Hartsook’s departure, county councilwoman Laura DeDomenic said last week.
Six months after being hired to replace Hartsook, sheriff’s deputy Jeff Wehmiller resigned April 21.
Jen Slabaugh, who had been Hartsook’s second-in-command, followed suit by submitting her resignation. Another IT specialist, Craig Pekar, also left the county’s employment.
The departure of Hartsook, Slabaugh and Pekar meant the loss of “80 percent of the knowledge” in the county’s IT department, commissioners chairman Rick Flohr said.
Reasons for resignations
When members of the county’s Computer and Data Processing Board began investigating the rash of departures, they discovered Hartsook was offered about a 50 percent salary increase by accepting a job in the private sector, Flohr said.
Slabaugh’s paycheck jumped by nearly 70 percent by making a similar move in her career, while Pekar left after the county announced during last summer’s budget discussions that it would not be giving employees raises in 2016, Flohr said.
While the county council agreed to pay the IT director $94,000 next year, a 44 percent increase from this year, other IT workers were not given comparable raises, Bartholomew County Auditor Barb Hackman said.
“If we don’t do something with the whole department, we’re just going to be a training ground (for the private sector),” DeDomenic told the council earlier this summer.
Although many council members blame a lack of financial resources, Phelps said the real problem is due to a failure of leadership among elected officials.
He specifically mentioned tensions and distrust between the commissioners and the council.
The latest display of those tensions emerged Tuesday when the council voted to take an additional $700,000 in local income tax revenue from the commissioners’ control to balance next year’s general fund.
The vote came one day after the three commissioners refused a request to enact a cumulative capital development tax from the council, which is also refusing to enact any new taxes.
The commissioners also refused the council’s request to provide $1 million from local income tax funds for general fund purposes. Instead, they offered to provide $200,000 from those funds, as well as a one-time payment of $111,000 toward the purchase of new radios and body cameras for the sheriff’s department.
“This territorial way of operating is killing the county,” Phelps said. “It’s hurting us, and it’s got to stop.”
A review of financial decisions made by the Bartholomew County Council shows the county’s 2017 general fund will not run a deficit, with an additional $53,128 after expenses, according to figures provided by the county auditor’s office.
But the question of whether the council has the legal authority to take an additional $700,000 in local income tax revenue from control of the Bartholomew County Commissioners was not addressed during Thursday’s final budget meeting.
Two days earlier, the commissioners disputed the council’s claim that new state-level changes gives the council authority to not only appropriate local income tax monies, but allocate its uses.
The commissioners may further discuss the matter when they meet again in regular session at 10 a.m. today, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said.
Also today, the council will hold a 6 p.m. work session in the county auditor’s office.